Sochi: A sensational volley by Dries Mertens and a Romelu Lukaku double fired classy Belgium to a 3-0 win against World Cup debutants Panama on Monday.
Panama held Belgium at bay until two minutes after the restart when Mertens broke the deadlock, with Lukaku’s brace completing a smooth win for Roberto Martinez’s team in their Group G opener.
In the end experience, talent and know-how told as Belgium swept aside underdogs Panama — but the performance was not as emphatic as the 3-0 scoreline suggests.
Panama had never competed at a World Cup before and such was the country’s joy at qualifying for Russia 2018 that President Juan Carlos Varela declared a national holiday.
Few fancied the South Americans to trouble Belgium, but for 46 minutes the team ranked 55 in the world caused Roberto Martinez’s men a headache.
It was only in the second half that the Red Devils made sure they did not to follow in the footsteps of Germany, Argentina and Brazil in succumbing to a surprise result in their opening game of the tournament.
A stunning volley from Dries Mertens and two goals from Romelu Lukaku sealed victory and three points for a Belgium team with trickier opponents, in the form of England and Tunisia, to come.